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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The sound of gunfire one year ago today changed their lives in an instant.
In a small hamlet called “Hong Kong” in Barangay Rio Hondo, hundreds of Badjaos were forced to evacuate their families to safety after Moro National Liberation Front rebels attacked the adjoining villages of Mariki, Talon-Talon, Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina. The rebels’ 20-day gunfight with government troops disclocated thousands of Zamboanga residents including members of the Badjao tribe.
With their small boats, the Badjaos from Rio Hondo paddled through 4 kilometers of sea until they reached the shoreline in Cawa-Cawa. For almost a year, at least 4,000 Badjaos lived in makeshift tents in the city’s landmark shoreline. They refused to join the majority of evacuees inside the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, commonly called here the Grandstand.
But the squalid conditions in Cawa-Cawa made their children ill. Officials said at least 167 Badjaos, mostly children, have died since they moved to Cawa-Cawa after the siege. This prompted the city government to decide to relocate them to transitional sites.
Two days ago, the remaining Badjaos along RT Lim Boulevard were forcibly relocated to the Grandstand.
On the other hand, the bulk – about 110 Badjao families – will be brought to another temporary site in Buggoc, Barangay Sta Catalina, where they will live close to the sea in a village that is hopefully more habitable.
In Buggoc, they will again wait for the final plan of government to find them a permanent home. – Rappler.com